We have something of a travel dance, Rob and I. Without much clarification or discussion, we know who is in charge of the reservation confirmations, boarding passes, and making sure all medications and electronics are packed. And we know who is in charge of wrangling the suitcases and figuring out how to get where we are going. We know which one of us gets the window seat and which one of us produces the credit card at reservation desks.
Things get really tricky…and rather painful…if I try to dance alone.
Thanks to some back issues, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. So getting suitcases on and off of shuttles and baggage carousels (I had to give up carry-ons when I gave up two discs in my lumbar region) and in and out of rental cars and up onto hotel suitcase stands is painful and potentially dangerous.
Getting through security is also tricky by myself since I’m a bit slow to put on my shoes and gather my special travel pillow and rearrange my coat and purse and anything else I have to untangle from. It’s always much easier when I have Rob keeping an eye on things as I pull myself back together amongst the metal detectors and plastic bins.
A little over a year ago, around Christmas, I flew south by myself for a Girls Weekend with a friend. I was super excited but also a little nervous. We had had a very busy month already with travel and houseguests and I was a little wiped out. The idea of navigating security and travel without my dance partner was verging on being overwhelming.
Exhausted and very much out of my attention-to-detail character, I didn’t notice until I approached the TSA line that my boarding pass contained the glorious code words “TSA PRE” printed above my name.
I had been randomly bestowed the "TSA Precheck" gift a few times before. It’s a beautiful designation that means you are pre-approved as a safe traveler and therefore do not need to perform a strip tease for the TSA agents.
Shoes, jackets, belts, watches…all of that can be worn as you strut your specially approved self through the metal detectors. That plastic baggie stuffed with lotion and hand sanitizer and other critical but limited liquids? Keep it tucked in your bag. No need to produce it for a show and tell for the agents and all the looky-loos in line with you. It’s like traveling pre-9/11 style. And it is awesome.
So back to the Girls Weekend.
As it dawned on me in the TSA line that I didn’t have to balance and bend to take off my shoes and I didn’t have to keep track of my back pillow AND my purse AND my jacket AND my baggie…that instead I could just put my purse and pillow on the conveyor belt and saunter through the detector…I almost burst into tears with gratitude. Meaning my eyes teared up but I didn’t sob and I sagely resisted the urge to hug every TSA agent in sight.
After waving to Rob from the other side of security, I texted him and suggested Santa might consider bringing me guaranteed TSA Precheck status for Christmas.
Less than two months later, it was so. Bless you, Santa Rob!
Thanks to a super easy online application process, a background check, some fingerprinting, some unflattering photos, and gleefully snagging some cancelled appointments at the airport, Rob and I have both been Known Travelers for a little over a year. For $85 each, we get to zip through security as many times as we want over five years. Because we paid a little extra ($15) for something called Global Entry, rumor has it US Customs will be much faster, too. With any luck, we’ll get to confirm that in the next year or so.
I’ve tested out my new flight status four times so far. All I have to do is enter my treat-me-special Known Traveler Number in my airline reservations. I’m still learning to trust that the system actually works so it remains a celebratory relief every time I verify “TSA PRE” is indeed printed on my boarding pass. So far it’s worked every time.
I’m also still getting used to the short line and the head spinning speed with which I whip through security now. On my last trip just a few weeks ago, I seriously think it took me less than two minutes from the time I was handing my driver’s license to the TSA guy to when I was heading to the nearest water fountain to fill my empty bottle. TWO MINUTES?!? All without having to disrobe or unpack. Inconceivable!
Given my physical limitations, I actually think this TSA Precheck thing is a steal even if I only flew two times per year. Over five years, it would be $20 per year or less. I would not blink at paying $10 extra to be able to bypass the long line and keep my shoes on. Have I mentioned the shoes? And how achy it is to take them off and put them on with a cranky back? Keep your grande decaf mocha and yogurt parfait, Starbucks. I wanna keep my shoes on!
We have a couple of trips planned over the next several months. I gotta admit, part of my jazzed, bouncy travel excitement is anticipating the wonders of TSA PRE and all that extra time I can spend at airports perusing magazines and gum options.
|On our first flight last year using our TSA Precheck status.|
One of us is slightly more ecstatic than the other.